“Sacred art is where Eternity shines through Time.” Joseph Campbell
“Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.” Letter from Pope John Paul II to Artists Last night I was talking with a friend, Fracesco Gusmitta who has opened a studio here where I live in Trieste, Italy called “The Actor’s Compass.” (www.labussoladellattore.it) We were talking about yoga and acting. He said, “I don’t think you teach anyone to act. You give them some techniques and point them in a direction where they can find their way.” It got me thinking about the path which I walk, which is a meandering one including both often appearing to go in divergent directions but always pointed in towards self expression as a means of expressing the creative, eternal, essence that made ‘me’ , that breathes life and consciousness into matter so that “I” can be born and reborn. I am blessed to have opportunities to share as a teacher in both areas and more than that, to have a practice and teacher, Rod Stryker (www.parayoga.com) and his teacher Pandit Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD (www.himalayaninstitute.org) to give me direction and perspective to be all that I can be and to see the thread woven through all the parts I play.
The theater is a sacred place and a sacred space to discover and reveal, to show and to share, to grow and to have fun. Yoga is a practice whereby the ground upon which we stand is seen as sacred . It is also a way to discover, reveal, show ( not to exhibit but to manifest), share, grow and be joyful . Seated in the deep inner reality of Self we express the richness of life and enjoy the roles we play. Even if we are not literally enjoying a particular role, we learn to see in the context of a greater reality how we may be acting out Karma and in seeing that, transform our experience through looking from a different perspective. We are all seeking direction in a certain sense, to know how to be happy. To bring together body, mind and soul. To live our lives fully and completely on planet earth, not in the spotlight but as the spot light.
Sometimes we need a compass to show us what direction to take to get to where we want to go. Sometimes, we just take off in a certain direction only to find that we are redirected. The thing is to learn how to focus so as to make choices not be distracted and get lost along the way. An important practice in yoga is svadhyaya . A renowned yoga teacher Gary Kraftsow says, “When we use the yoga practice of svadhyaya—self-reflection—effectively, our actions become much more than a way to achieve something external; they become a mirror in which we can learn to see ourselves more deeply. If we are willing to look at behaviors, motivations, and strategies we habitually use to maintain our own self-image, we can use svadhyaya to pierce through the veil that this self-image creates and into the nature of our own essential being.”
In a certain sense , an actor must become a mirror by looking at behaviors, motivations and the strategy or action a character takes in order to achieve or try to achieve their goal. In fact, acting in a certain sense is revealing the inner workings that the character him/her/it self doesn’t realize , the things that drive a person to ‘act’ in a certain way.
This blog is not about me but sometimes, personal story can illustrate or contextualize. Theater has been a part of my life. Theater transformed a shy, introverted child into well, an actress. For as long as I can remember, that was what I wanted to be but I also remember being told that my dream was impractical until a wonderful teacher, Barbara Colby, said to me “If you believe this is what you were meant to do, you must do it. It’s okay to choose not to do it but it’s not okay to not try because you’re afraid or because others tell you you can’t.” In the end, success is less important than the act of commitment. Like Arjuna is told by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita… in my words not his… “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Yours is the yoga of action, it doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail, win or lose you must fight. It’s your role.” Your Dharma, or purpose in life needs to be fulfilled, but often we get diverted or distracted and take off in a direction that isn’t going to get us where we want to go, to fulfillment. Tantra Yoga is a practice of marrying desire , intention and learning to give applying what we learn to live our lives fully, joyously and contributing that unique strand is woven in the web of life.We’ve been talking about reaching for the stars,’ you may not touch them but you will have stretched and grown.’ Concisely defined by my teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker, “Tan – to expand or stretch and tra- that which protects and allows us to safely grow beyond all limitation.” Tantra is both a practice and a philosophy . The literal translation is ‘to weave’. We weave the fabric of our life through the actions we take. So, since we’re actors one of the things we need is a compass as well as a screen on which to project the movie of our life story or a stage on which to play our parts.
“Sacred Theatre is based on the idea that your life is a great play – rich dialogue, cast of thousands, many scenes and locations, terrific drama, soul-stirring action. You are invited to step onto the sacred stage of your life for more energy, more expressiveness, more playfulness, more creativity, and a clearer understanding of the beauty of your life.” Peggy Rubin
I can’t seem to find it no matter how much I google but I remember in Bill Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell saying that the cloth has mirrors woven into it so that each of us reflects the other and the light. He said this with great glee which seems to be the sign of a master, joy in a face marked by a life lived. But, to return to the compass, few of us have that inner awareness , an unerring sense of direction. Most of us need a compass and a teacher to show us how to use the compass as well as help us to discover what direction we want to go. The term, “The Actor’s Compass” therefore takes on a greater meaning as a place where one can find direction, support and one’s own voice as well as the song we want to sing at this moment. (Makes me ponder, what would I like the theme song of my life to be but that’s a whole other subject.) Right now, I’m glad to have the tools and the practice to life life right now. For many years I felt pulled in different directions, the desire to perform and the desire to be at one with my creator. My ego made performing a place of anxiety but my soul cried when it didn’t have the space, the stage or canvas or whatever it is that is the mode of expression that a particular soul yearns for. It doesn’t so much want to be ‘seen’ as to be recognized. In fact, the more I recognize who I am and chose actions Karma) and directions (svadharma) which fulfill it’s desire, and my desire to be who I truly am.
“Sometimes a fool, sometimes a sage, sometimes possessed of regal splendor; sometimes wandering, sometimes as motionless as a python, sometimes wearing a benignant expression; sometimes honored, sometimes insulted, sometimes unknown—thus lives the man of realization, ever happy with supreme bliss. Just as an actor is always a man, whether he puts on the costume of his role or lays it aside, so is the perfect knower of the Imperishable always the Imperishable, and nothing else.” [Shankaracharya, Vivekachudamani, 542 and 555.]
Like Shakespeare said… in one’s life , one plays many parts, so now I ask , again my paraphrase, from that supreme yogi Viola Spolin “Who is the player and who is playing the game?” I used to feel pulled in two ( or more) different directions buffeted about by my desires until I realized that they are little mirrors to my soul . I don’t live in an ‘either/or’ world but a ‘both/and more’ world , meaning I have to chose my direction but it does not exclude parts but rather includes all of me. Dualistic and Non Dualistic – We find that Tantra Yoga teaches the appearance is not something to overcome , there’s nothing to ‘become’ but there’s dharma to fulfill and back to Shakespeare, TO BE OR NOT to BE , That ‘is’ the question. So here we return to the theme of that unique gift of you which is yours to share and through sharing,to discover that which we seek we already are and , more just keeps being revealed. – Be Yoga Now.